Last week I joined six other writers (including the group leader and the organizer – who were also writers) at the Go and Write Kingsbrae writers’ retreat. What an amazing experience it was. We stayed at KIRA (the Kingsbrae International Residency for the Arts).
For details check out their website at https://www.kingsbraeartscentre.com/amphitheatre
Their literature says, “A residency at KIRA creates a rewarding and stimulating experience for any participant seeking to advance their artistic journey.” And, although our event wasn’t a full month-long ‘residency’, we spent a week together with other like-minded people where support and creativity were paramount.
Each of us had a private bedroom and bathroom. Covid protocols were strictly enforced. Mask wearing outside of one’s personal space was mandatory and supplies of hand sanitizer were everywhere.
But despite the restrictions, a sense of camaraderie quickly developed among us. We shared any obstacles we faced and offered each other suggestions and support for overcoming them. Listening to each participant read samples of their work in the evenings was fascinating – such different styles both of writing and reading.
The grounds for KIRA were lovely and each of us had a private studio to work in. Designed for a multitude of media, each included large windows, white walls and space to move around, sit, think, work on a project or just enjoy the space.
The studios all faced the water at the foot of the gentle hill, behind the 1500 seat amphitheatre.
It was the first time in two years that I’d slept anywhere but at home (other than a brief stint in hospital last year – but that doesn’t count as it wasn’t by choice). It felt very strange to load up my little car with anything and everything I MIGHT need for a week (and more) and head off down the road for the two-hour drive to Saint Andrews.
I arrived a little early for check-in so I drove around the town for a little while. I’d always heard that the place was overrun with deer, but I only saw one small herd grazing on the lawn of a park.
The property around the Gardens and KIRA was protected from the invaders by 10′ high fencing to discourage them from becoming a scourge and destroying the plants.
When I strolled Water Street in search of coffee and a snack, I was surprised to find I felt very nervous, even though it seemed like everyone wore masks and all of the shops and restaurants had hand sanitizer at the doors and indicators for physical distancing – that seemed to be respected.
Once I got settled at KIRA, I pretty much stayed there. I ventured into the Gardens when I needed a break. I had set myself the challenge of using only one lens (a 35mm f/1.4) on my Fuji X-T3 for making images on this trip. And, in fact, it WAS a challenge. There were several times when I wished for my macro lens. But nevertheless, I enjoyed creating some garden images (click on individual images to see larger versions of the photos).
I also enjoyed discovering hidden treasures throughout the gardens – secluded and unique benches to sit upon and relax or mentally work through a perplexing issues with my writing; metal and wooden artwork; large and small pieces to intrigue the eye and mind, many hidden in wee grottos under the trees.
With the help and support of #GerardCollins and the participants at the event, I made progress on my writing effort. I doubled the word count I’d arrived with. I got some excellent advice on tightening up my prose to make it more readable, and best of all, made some new friends.
There were goats, bunnies, assorted ducks and other birds, a fox kit and various other animals to satisfy my urge to hear and see ‘critters’. Plus lovely water features like the fountain in the middle of the pond that also helps irrigate the gardens.
I didn’t spend a lot of time in downtown Saint Andrews except for a brief grocery shopping trip (not all meals were included in our stay), one brunch alone and one shared lunch on the porch of a restaurant with Johanna. But I did manage to catch one sunrise and a couple of images on the edge of the bay.
The week came to a close with our third lovely dinner at the Kingsbrae Café. Chef Chris gave us tasty and varied meals that we enjoyed – one person per table and properly physically distanced from each other. I missed the intimacy of a group sitting together at one or two tables in close proximity to facilitate conversation, but I also appreciated feeling safe and protected. Going anywhere in public is always a scary proposition these days – but fears were allayed by the great care taken by everyone involved everywhere we went.
Despite my trepidation at leaving my comfort zone of Covid hibernation, things went well. It was wonderful to meet and get to know some new people. Exploring a new environment was a delight. Silence and uninterrupted creative time was a joy. Everyone was respectful of space and privacy and the week flew by for all of us. Now to keep up the momentum and set aside an hour or two daily to immerse myself in nothing but writing. I have a goal and I will meet it!
It’s nice to be home in my cocoon again with Joel and Harley. The greeting upon my arrival was enthusiastic to say the least, especially with Harley leaping and barking with joy.